Header image of books


Pronounced /ˌɒnəˈmæstɪkɒn/Help with pronunciation

A book such as the Oxford Names Companion is an onomasticon, and the word has throughout history turned up most often in the titles of dictionaries of proper names or place names.

It still does occasionally: There’s the Buffyverse Onomasticon, an online resource that gives the origins of the names of all the characters in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Onomasticon to Cicero’s Letters and the Onomasticon of the Hittite Pantheon (in three volumes) are two modern scholarly examples. The word is from Greek onomázein, to name, of which onuma, a name, is a close relative.

They’re the source of other words to do with names. An onomastician studies the origin and form of proper names of every kind and the field of study is called onomastics. The study of place names is an important onomastic endeavour, and has its own name, toponymy (from Greek topos, a place + onuma), with a toponymist being a person who studies it. We must also distinguish between an onomastician and an onomasiologist — the latter studies the principles of naming, such as the way it varies between places and groups of people and how new names are formed.

Search World Wide Words

Support this website!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 17 Sep. 2005

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-ono2.htm
Last modified: 17 September 2005.